Friday, October 31, 2008

So what are you supposed to be?

Happy Halloween -

Ancient Romans celebrated a holiday called Feralia on February 21. At first it was a simple day off to recover from the holiday of February 20 (Bougainvalia), and to take care of last minute shopping before the holiday of February 22 (Onsalia).

It was, coincidentally, the last day of the year according to the Roman calendar.

Over time it became a sacred day in its own right. It became a festival to honor the dead, and like most Roman holidays it involved some serious drinking. Feralia also resembled most other Roman holidays in that it outlasted the western Roman empire. The jolly men and women of the Mediterranean basin saw no reason to give up the riotous holiday, with all its drinking and orgies, despite countless reminders from an ascendant Christian church that drinking was bad (unless it was Jesus' blood) and orgies were worse.

At last, in the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV decided that the holiday was Christian after all, except that instead of honoring all the dead it should honor only dead saints, that instead of Feralia it should be called All Saints' Day, that instead of drinking and orgies it should be a day of prayer and meditation, and that instead of February 21 it should be observed on May 13.

The good peoples of the Christian world happily accepted the new name and date, but persisted in drinking and orgying. As punishment for this inappropriate enjoyment, Pope Gregory III moved it to November 1, and unwittingly laid the foundation for our modern Halloween.

Hold that thought.

Since as early as the 5th century BC, the ancient Celts had considered October 31 the last day of summer. They called the day Samhain (rhymes with Clamhain), and they believed all the divisions between the world of the living and the world of the dead were dissolved for that brief period. They thought the dead used this window of opportunity to possess the souls of the living, and the thought scared the piss out of them.

A variety of bizarre rituals to ward off the dead accumulated around Samhain over the centuries, including the sacrificial burning of virgins (when any could be found).

When these Celtic rituals collided with the Christian All Saints' Day, all hell broke loose. People didn't know whether they should pray, drink, orgy, burn virgins, or what. They tried a lot of different combination: they got drunk and prayed, they burned virgins and got drunk, they prayed to have orgies and got drunk with virgins, they prayed then got drunk and had orgies with virgins.

Eventually they settled on sending their kids out in silly costumes to ask their neighbors for candy. This was intended to keep them out of the house while the drinking and orgies raged, but since everyone's doorbells kept ringing from everyone else's children, the drinking and orgies gradually faded away.

Of course, this brief outline only traces the development of Halloween as we know it in America. The holiday is still celebrated in countries all over the world in an astonishing number of ways.

In Bulgaria, for example, October 31 is a national holiday called "Bulgerplutz." In rural districts, children dress up as kitchen utensils and dash from farm to farm tying chickens' feet together. Any unhappy farmer attempting to shoo the children away from his chickens will find himself pelted with manure and glass shards as the children sing playful Bulgerplutz carols. In Mexico, the "Day of the Dead" lasts from October 31 through November 2, which has long been a concern to students of the Mexican calendar. The celebration is a fusion of sixteenth-century Spaniards' All Souls'and All Saints' Days and the Aztec festival honoring Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of the dead. (Mictecacihuatl was said to have died at birth as the result of complications relating to pronunciation.)

One can't help but marvel at the similarities between the "Day of the Dead" that arose in Meso-America and Kyrgyzstan's "Day of the Very Sick" (Nov 1), Papua New Guinea's "Evening of the Emotionally Exhausted" (Oct 31), and Vanuatu's "Cardiovascular Appreciation Days" (Oct 31 - Nov 2).

In Saudi Arabia, October 31 is "Sandy Night." As soon as the sun sets, children scamper out into the desert and fill their home-made bags with sand. The holiday is believed to be derived from the ancient Bedouin tradition of sending children out to fill bags with sand.

In Chile, Halloween is infused with ancient Incan traditions. Fretful mothers extinguish the fires in their hearths for fear of attracting Spaniards while naughty children take their parents hostage and demand their weight in chocolate.

In Wittenberg, Germany, October 31 is celebrated as the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in 1517. Many of the town's children frolic giddily about, nailing Theses here and there with impish delight, while others try to catch and burn them as heretics.

Whatever your own tradition, enjoy Halloween.

( For all you parents - remember to sort your kids candy later tonight. It is not a crime to save all the good chocolate for yourself. Tell'em you have to sample it for poison.) -

Here's your Today in History

October 31, 1926 -

Harry Houdini dies in room 401 of Grace Hospital in Detroit. The escape artist was killed by diffuse peritonitis, after having undergone an emergency appendectomy. Contrary to popular belief, the fatal appendicitis could not have been caused by a punch to the stomach.

October 31, 1950 -
John Franklin Candy, the great Canadian comedian and actor,was born on this date.

October 31, 1993 -
Federico Fellini, considered as one of the most influential and widely revered film-makers of the 20th century, passed away on this date.

I'd have written more but I'm way behind in lacing our candy with arsenic.

And so it goes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I was hoping for showgirls

Well, Barack Obama ran his infomercial last night and while it wasn't a complete snorefest, he's no Ron Popeil. He was very funny though on The Daily Show with John Stewart.

Here's your Today in History -

October 30, 1863 -
OK kids, try to follow this ...

Danish Prince Wilhelm was a middle child of very famous siblings. His older brother was to become the King of Denmark. His older sister was married to Edward VII, making her the Queen consort of England. His younger sister was married to the Tsar (czar? csar?) of Russia. His parents didn't know what just to get for him. They thought and thought about it and decided that he shopuld become the King of Greece?

Wilhelm arrives in Athens, changes his name to a good Greek name and assumes his throne as George I, King of the Hellenes, on this date. As mentioned previously, Wilhelm/ George's grandson was a sailor named Philip, whose parents were related to themselves and half the other nobility in Europe. Philip had no real prospects of a career, so he did what any blue blooded aristocrat would do with no real prospects, he married up by marrying his second cousin (Elizabeth II of England).

October 30, 1938 -
The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. Directed by boy wonder, Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds (1898), and was performed as a Halloween special on this date. Welles's adaptation is arguably the most well-known radio dramatic production in history. Both the War of the Worlds broadcast and the panic it created have become textbook examples of mass hysteria and the delusions of crowds.

It has been suggested in recent years that the War of the Worlds broadcast was actually a psychological warfare experiment. In the 1999 documentary, Masters of the Universe: The Secret Birth of the Federal Reserve, writer Daniel Hopsicker claims that the Rockefeller Foundation actually funded the broadcast, studied the ensuing panic, and compiled a report that was only available to a chosen few. A variation of this conspiracy theory has the Princeton Radio Project and the Rockefeller Foundation as co-conspirators.

There has been continued speculation that the panic generated by the War of the Worlds broadcast inspired officials to cover up unidentified flying object evidence, to avoid a similar panic. Indeed, U.S. Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt wrote in 1956, "The [U.S. government's] UFO files are full of references to the near mass panic of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles presented his now famous The War of the Worlds broadcast."

It's also possible that the aliens hypnotizing Welles and causing him to pass the broadcast off as a drama, when it was indeed factual. You never know.

October 30, 1968 -

Silent film star, Ramon Navarro is brutally beated and left for dead by his assailants, on this date. Novarro's life ended when two Catholic brothers, Tom and Paul Ferguson, whom he had paid to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex, murdered him. According to the prosecution in the Novarro murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro's house. The prosecution accused them of torturing Novarro for several hours to force him to reveal where the nonexistent money was hidden. They left with a mere twenty dollars they took from his bathrobe pocket before fleeing the scene. Novarro died as a result of asphyxiation, choking to death on his own blood after being brutally beaten. According to filmmaker and scandal monger, Kenneth Anger, Navarro actually died after suffocating on a wooden (or silver) dildo (a gift from Rudolf Valentino) the two brothers crammed down his throat.

A very unpleasant end, indeed.

And so it goes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Baby Snooks

Just think, by next Wednesday, the election will finally be over. What will we have to talk about?

October 29, 1891 -
Fanny Brice, popular and influential American comedienne, singer, theatre and film actress and entertainer, was born on this date.

October 29, 1899 -
Akim Tamiroff, Georgian born actor (was the first Golden Globe Award-winning actor for Best Supporting Actor) was born on this date.

While Tamiroff may not be a household name in the present day, his malapropistic performance as the boss in The Great McGinty inspired the cartoon character Boris Badenov, the male half of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

your Today in History -

Today is the anniversary of Black Tuesday, the stock market crash in 1929 that signaled the beginning of the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. Few people saw it coming except for Joseph P. Kennedy and Charlie Chaplin who had cashed out of the volatile market weeks early and preserved their fortunes.. The stock market had been booming throughout the 1920s. Brokerage houses had been springing up all over the country, to take advantage of everyone’s interest in investment. There were stories about barbers, messenger boys and prostitutes who'd gotten rich off of overheard stock tips. Americans who ordinarily couldn't afford to invest their money were taking out loans to buy stock so they wouldn't miss out (shades of the sub prime mortgage market.)

The stock market didn't do so well in September of 1929, but nobody really noticed anything was wrong until October 23, when 2.6 million shares were sold in the closing hour of trading. It looked as though the selling would continue on Thursday, October 24, but a group of the most influential American bankers in the country pooled their money and began to buy up the declining stocks, supporting the market. By the end of that day it seemed like everything would be all right. But on this day in 1929, the bottom fell out of the market. Three million shares were sold in the first half-hour. Stock prices fell so fast that by the end of the day there were shares in many companies that no one would buy at any price. The stocks had lost their entire value.

The front-page story in The New York Times on this day read, "Wall Street was a street of vanished hopes, of curiously silent apprehension and of a sort of paralyzed hypnosis. Men and women crowded the brokerage offices, even those who have been long since wiped out, and followed the figures on the tape. Little groups gathered here and there to discuss the fall in prices in hushed and awed tones."

It was the most disastrous trading day in the stock market's history (until now). The stock market lost $30 billion dollars, more than a third of its value, in the next two weeks.

October 29, 1618 -

Sir Walter Raleigh was a fairly forgotten figure in England History on the previous day. Sir Walter, famous explorer and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I had been languishing in prison for years on some murky charges of plotting against King James I. He was left to languish in the Tower of London until 1616. While imprisoned, he wrote many treatises and the first volume of The Historie of the World, about the ancient history of Greece and Rome. His son Carew was conceived and born while Raleigh was legally 'dead' and imprisoned in the Tower of London (1604).

In 1616, Sir Walter was released from the Tower of London in order to conduct a second expedition to Venezuela in search of El Dorado. In the course of the expedition, Raleigh's men, under the command of Lawrence Keymis, sacked the Spanish outpost of San Thome on the Orinoco. During the initial attack on the settlement, Raleigh's son Walter was struck by a bullet and killed. On Raleigh's return to England, the outraged Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, the Spanish ambassador, demanded that King James reinstate Raleigh's death sentence. The ambassador's demand was granted.

Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall on 29 October 1618. "Let us dispatch," he asked his executioner. "At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear." After he was allowed to see the axe that would behead him, he mused: "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries". According to many biographers — Raleigh Trevelyan in his book Sir Walter Raleigh (2003) for instance — Sir Walter's final words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: "Strike a match man, strike!"

The corpse was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh. "The Lords," she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits". After Raleigh's execution, his head was embalmed and presented to his wife. She carried it with her in a velvet bag until she decided she didn't like the smell. Gentlemen, remember either to keep your head upon your death or ask your wife to invest in a lot of room deodorizer.

October 29, 1901 -

Leon Czolgosz was convicted and sentenced to death for the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley on September 23, 1901 in a brief trial that lasted eight and a half hours from jury selection to verdict. Upon returning to Auburn Prison, he asked the Warden if this meant he would be transferred to Sing Sing to be electrocuted, and seemed surprised to learn that Auburn had its own electric chair.

He was executed by electrocution, by three jolts at 1700 volts each, on October 29, 1901, in Auburn Prison in Auburn, New York. His brother Waldek and his brother-in-law Frank Bandowski were in attendance, though when Waldek asked the Warden for his brother's body to be taken for proper burial, he was informed that he "would never be able to take it away" and that crowds of people would mob him, so the body had to be buried on prison grounds.

His last words were "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people — the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.". As the prison guards strapped him into the chair, however, he did say through clenched teeth, "I am sorry I could not see my father." Sulfuric acid and lye were thrown into his coffin so that his body would be completely disfigured, and to aid in its decomposition. His letters and clothes were burned.

The scene of the crime, the Temple of Music, was torn down in November 1901. A stone marker in the middle of Fordham Drive, a residential street in Buffalo today marks the approximate spot where the event occurred. Czolgosz's revolver is on display at the Pan-American Exposition exhibit of the Erie County Historical Society in Buffalo.

October 29, 1977 -
Rhoda got married today. I'm still broken up that it didn't last.

And so it goes

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To those of the readers who celebrate today's "Festival of Lights",

Happy Dawali.

And Happy 150th Birthday Macy's (It really was a part of my life - my sister, my wife and I used to work there a million years ago.)

Here's Your Today in History -

October 28, 4004 BC -

God creates Adam and Eve five days after the rest of the universe, according to Biblical calculations by Archbishop James Ussher

On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated at Liberty Island, New York, by President Grover Cleveland. Lady Liberty, as she came to be called, quickly become a symbol of America, partly because she was such a striking visual symbol of our national reverence for liberty, partly because of the five-dollar hot dogs and ten-dollar plastic replicas sold at her feet.

The statue's inscription was written by poet Emma Lazarus, and attributes the following exhortation to Lady Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

(Cynics like to point out that construction of the golden door was never completed.)

Exactly thirty-three years later, in 1919, Congress passed a law prohibiting alcohol.

With alcohol outlawed, only outlaws had drinks and the atmosphere fosters Mafia encroachment into legitimate businesses. Strangely, the lesson here has yet to be learned. Fortunately there were an awful lot of them and they overturned the law as soon as they were sober enough to vote.

October 28, 1922 -

Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini seizes power in Italy, with the assistance of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XI declared "Mussolini is a man sent by divine providence." In return for this endorsement, the silly dictator signs the Lateran treaty, restoring papal sovereignty over the Vatican. But at least the trains run on time.

October 28, 1948 -

The Nobel committee announces that Swiss chemist Paul Mueller has won the 1948 chemistry prize. He discovered the unusual insecticidal properties of 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2- bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane. Thanks to Mueller, the world embraces the phenomenal bug-killer... until somebody discovers that the hydrocarbon, popularly known as DDT, also excels at causing cancer.


October 28, 1955 -
William Henry Gates III is born in Seattle. Due to the economic downturn, poor Bill has been reduced to clipping coupons as he was downgraded this year to only the second wealthiest person in the world.

How sad.

And so it goes

P.S. And on a personal note: Happy Birthday Olivia. Hey wait a minute what are you doing reading this - get off the computer,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Simon.

Simon John Charles Le Bon, the lead singer and lyricist of the pop/rock band Duran Duran and its offshoot, Arcadia, was born on this date. When was the last time you thought about Duran Duran.

(mildly NSFW)

October 27, 1553

Michael Servetus, noted theologian, was honored in Switzerland for his discovery of the pulmonary circulation of the blood, on this date bybeing burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his writing chained to his leg. Historians record his last words as: "Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me.".

John Calvin is given a good deal of credit for having arranged these honors, which may have had something to do with his own gratitude to Mr. Servetus for having raised an important theological question.

Throughout history, such important theological questions have caused almost as much bloodshed as important theological answers. That doesn't mean theology's an especially bloody field—there's been just as much carnage from philosophy, political science, economics, linguistics, and the rest of the humanities.

It's probably all that blood that puts the "human" in the "humanities."

The New York City subway system opened officially 104 years ago today, which means New Yorkers can look forward to 365 days of riding the World's Most Crowded, Smelly and Largest Transportation System!

Let Joy Reign Supreme!!!

October 27, 1954 -
Walt Disney's 1st TV show, "Disneyland," premieres on ABC

October 27, 1964 -
In a private ceremony, Sonny and Cher exchanged rings in Tijuana (on this date) and told others they were married, they were not legally married until 1969.

October 27, 1993 -
Santa Ana winds drive 14 fires across five Southern California counties, which destroy more than 500 homes and cause perhaps $1B in damage within a week's time. Times don't seem to change.

And so it goes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

60 shopping days until Christmas

Given the current state of the economy, most people will probably have to cut back on their shopping. So get out there and start collecting recyclable bottles and cans for their deposit (or see 'Gift of the Magi')

Today in History -
October 26, 1944 -

Vice President Harry S Truman publicly denies ever having been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.


October 26, 1979 -
Kim Jae Kyu, director of South Korea's central intelligence agency, "accidentally" shoots President Park Chung Hee to death, also killing Park's bodyguard. Park had been president (dictator, effectively) since 1961. Kim is executed the following May for his attempted coup d'etat.


A few years ago at the New York Film Festival, the film, The President's Last Bang, recounts the events.

October 26, 1984 -

19-year-old John McCollum shoots and killed himself while listening to Ozzy Osbourne records. One year later, McCollum's parents file suit against Ozzy and CBS Records, alleging that the song "Suicide Solution" from the album Blizzard of Ozz contributed to their son's death. Except that the song's subject was quite plainly alcohol addiction. The trial court dismissed the McCollum's complaint.


October 26, 1991 -

A sudden wind uprooted a 485-pound umbrella, part of an outdoor art project installed by Christo, in the Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles and struck Lori Keevil-Matthews, 33 years old, of Camarillo, Calif., crushing her to death against a boulder.


October 26, 1997 -

Charles Barkley was arrested by Florida police and charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest for hurling an Orlando bar patron through a plate-glass window. Barkley later tells reporters: "I regret we weren't on a higher floor."


October 26, 2002 -

After pumping an aerosol form of the fast-acting anesthetic Fentanyl Citrate into the air, Russian special forces raid the Palace of Culture of the Podshipnikov Zavod. Three days prior, Chechen terrorists captured 750 audience members inside the Moscow theater. The gas kills 116 captives. About fifty terrorists are slain as well, primarily from summary execution (close-range pistol shots to the head).


And so it goes

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Paul

October 25, 1881 -
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso, the Spanish-born painter and sculptor considered the most influential artist of the 20th century, was born. I wonder if his pictures are still worth anything?

Today in History

It's 1415, as it has been often said, times were hard - the only way to tell who the king was in England was looking for the person with the least amount of crap on him. The wastrel son of a usurping King leads a ragtag army into another sovereign nation. After giving a stirring speech, the outnumbered army beats the far superior and well fortified army and wins the decisive Battle of Agincourt on this day. More than one hundred years later, either Wm. Shakespeare and a bunch of other people wrote a slew of Henry plays

It's 1854, this time. The British want to maintain their naval superiority of the globe and continue to enjoy the thrill of sodomy on the open seas. The Russian Tsar (or Czar, as most monarchs are to busy to get a proper education, so they could barely figure out what type of monarch they are) decided that the Russian naval needed to get into a little of those high seas hijicks, began moving his army towards Turkey, hoping for a Russian port in the black sea. Thus, buggery is one of the underlying causes of The Crimean War.

It typical British fashion, On the morning of October 25, 1854, the English were winning the Battle of Balaclava (not Baklava, the delicious Greek pastry wars, to be described at a future date, but the goofy hat war with the ear flaps) when Lord Cardigan (yes, of sweater fame) received his order to attack the Russians fortifications.Unfortunately for the Light Brigade, the Russian army was also on the other side of the valley that they were charging towards. The brigade was decimated by the heavy Russian guns, suffering 40 percent casualties. It was later revealed that the order was the result of Alfred Lord Tennyson needing a new hit poem and not intentional.

October 25, 1938 -

The Archbishop of Dubuque, the Most Reverend Francis J.L. Beckman, denounces the newfangled Swing music -- the latest craze -- as nothing more than "a degenerated musical system... turned loose to gnaw away the moral fiber of young people." Its cannibalistic rhythms are said to lead one down the "primrose path to Hell."

October 25, 1957 -

In chair number four of the barber shop at the Park Sheraton hotel in Manhattan, Mafia don Albert Anastasia is shot five times by the Gallo Brothers, under orders from Carlo Gambino. The barber shop is now a Starbucks.

October 25, 1983 -
In order to maintain an uninterrupted supply of nutmeg to satisfy global demand, the United States of America invades the Caribbean island of Grenada. The invasion is rationalized as a rescue mission for the American medical students at the local school. A good friend of mine was at the school at the time and was widely quoted in the media.

October 25, 1991 -

On the way back from a Huey Lewis concert, rock promoter Bill Graham is killed when his helicopter hits high-voltage power lines in Vallejo, California. Wow, he died because of Huey Lewis.

And so it goes

Friday, October 24, 2008

I woke up humming ...

some of the songs from this cartoon this morning -

I'm not sure why? But hope you enjoy it anyway.

Today in History

October 24, 1836 - (Please follow along on your flow charts) Mankind was not fully mankind until it learned how to set things on fire. That happened a long time ago and enabled such hallmarks of early civilization as cooked meat, heated homes, and flaming heretics. Only in the past few hundred years has mankind learned how to start fires quickly and easily.

In 1680, Irish scientist Robert Boyle discovered that rubbing phosphorus and sulphur together caused them to burst into flames. Such was his reward for a lifetime spent rubbing phosphorus against things to see what would happen.

In 1827, seizing upon the Irish invention with a zeal usually reserved for Irish real estate, an Englishman named John Walker invented "sulphuretted peroxide strikeables," which were like matches except they were three feet long and as likely to explode as ignite.

A variation on this firestarter was introduced in England in 1828. It was called the Promethean, and consisted of a glass bulb of sulphuric acid. The bulb was coated with potassium chlorate, sugar, and gum, then wrapped in paper. To ignite the Promethean, one broke the glass bulb against one's teeth. Dentists loved it, but the public remained wary.

Germans began manufacturing small phosphorus matches in Germany in 1832. Like so many other German inventions, however, these tended to ignite with a series of explosions that spread fire about one's feet. They also exploded when stepped on. This dampened their popularity among the arson-averse public.

Finally, on this date, a patent was issued in the United States to Alonzo D. Phillips for the manufacture of friction matches and called them locofocos.

October 24, 1929 -
The stock market began a catastrophic collapse and this day became know as Black Thursday nearly 13 million shares traded hands and stock prices plummeted. This ultimately led to the Great Depression. Scientists around the world desperately sought a cure for the millions of Depressed peoples on every continent. Researchers from the National Socialist Society eventually demonstrated that the people of Germany, Italy, and Spain were Depressed because their trains didn't run on time, and fascism was invented to address this shortcoming.

Having resolved their train schedules, however, fascists discovered that many people were still unhappy. This was found to have been the result of socialism (remember, National Socialist are not Socialists i.e. Communist), which was incompatible with fascism, and persons who failed to become happy were subsequently shot. This caused the Spanish Civil War, which was so successful it inspired World War II, after which everyone felt much better.

October 24, 1931 -

The George Washington Bridge opens to public traffic, linking New York City with New Jersey. The bridge became a famous New York landmark and has been featured in many movies and TV shows. The toll to cross the bridge was to be temporary -- just to cover costs. But it costs and costs and costs when you have to keep repairing and painting a bridge that big -- so, the bridge toll continues. And the bridge is still being painted.

October 24, 1947 -

In a very UN-American fashion, Neo-Nazi and American Isolationist Walt Disney testifies to the House Unamerican Activities Committee, naming Disney employees he believes to be Communists, ranting about how Communists were infiltrating the unions he has to deal with, and how "Commie groups began smear campaigns against [him]."

October 24, 1960 -

At the Soviet Union's Baykonur space facility, an R-16 ballistic missile explodes on the launch pad, incinerating 165 people. Included among the dead is Field Marshall Mitrofan Nedelin, whose death is covered up as having occurred in a plane crash.

October 24, 1989 -

Televangelist Jim Bakker receives 45 years and a $500,000 fine for defrauding investors of $3.7M. Bakker had already been dismissed from his PTL ministry, so the criminal penalties probably just added insult to injury. Remember, "I have sinned".

October 24, 1991 -

Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek science fiction franchise, dies in a Santa Monica, California hospital after a heart attack.

And so it goes

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Birthday "Weird Al"

October 23, 1959 -
Alfred Matthew Yankovic, Grammy Award winning American singer, musician, actor, satirist, parodist, songwriter, music producer, accordionist, and television producer, was born on this date. And you just thought he was some nerdy guy you sang some funny songs.

1941 Walt Disney studios release their fourth animated film, "Dumbo" on this date.

Today in History:

42 BC -
Brutus, one of the lead assassins of Julius Casear, and his army are decisively defeated by Mark Antony and Octavian in the Second Battle of Philipp, on this date. Brutus commits suicide. His last words were allegedly "Yes, we must escape, but this time with our hands, not our feet" (I believe they really were, "Ouch that really hurts).

While it is not the Ides of March - it is a very bad day for Brutus.

According to James Ussher, the venerable 17th century Archbishop of Armagh, and to Dr John Lightfoot of Cambridge, it was at exactly 9:00 a.m. on the chilly autumn morning of October 23, 4004 BC, that God created the world.

The question of 9:00 a.m. where didn't appear to enter into their consideration, but it strikes me as important. If the world was created at 9:00 a.m. Greenwich Time, it would have been 5:00 a.m Eastern Time, meaning the world was technically created earlier in the Old World than it was in the New. What's worse, Hawaii, the Midway Islands, Samoa, and other points west would have been created the day before.

It's conceivable, I suppose, that Ussher & Lightfoot (which sounds like either a rock group, law firm, or television action series) could have been mistaken in their calculations, but if we start questioning men of God, where will it end? Sooner or later we'll start questioning God himself, which couldn't possibly lead anywhere good. No, it's either blind obedience to God or the Hell with us all.

Just ask the Taliban.

Anyway, this would make this old earth just 6012 years old on October 23 (according to Sarah Palin, among others.) Happy Birthday good old 3rd Rock from the Sun.

October 23,1935 -
Gangsters Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey in what will become known as The Chophouse Massacre.

October 23, 1976 -

In an astonishing lack of forethought, President Jimmy Carter admits a deadly sin in a Playboy magazine interview: "I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me."

October 23, 1987 -
United States Senate rejected the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork on a 58-to-42 vote. Ostensibly this was because he admitted to smoking marijuana as a youth, which would be the wrong reason. He should have been rejected for being a sleazebag with freaky chin hair.

Some have since argued that Bork was the target of a smear campaign, and they began using his last name as a verb, saying that they wanted to prevent future nominees from getting "borked." The word "bork" was recently added to Webster's dictionary, defined as, "[Seeking] to obstruct a political appointment or selection, also to attack a political opponent viciously." Robert Bork said, "My name became a verb, and I regard that as one form of immortality."

The chip on Mr. Bork's shoulder makes the one on Clarence Thomas' very small indeed.

October 23, 1995 -
The murderer of the Pop Star singer Selena, and president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, found guilty in Houston of her slaying. It helped that case tremendously that with her last breathe, Selena was able to say, "Hey, the big fat ugly embezzling head of my fan club just shot me in the back."

Very lucky break for the prosecution.

And so it goes

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

There are no takesies back in politics

Minn. rep calls talk show appearance `big mistake'
from AP wire service

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann says she regrets using the term "anti-American" while discussing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's views, a remark that could threaten her re-election bid.

Bachmann told the St. Cloud Times on Tuesday that she "made a big mistake" by going on MSNBC's "Hardball," a show she said she'd never seen before her appearance last week. Her statement to host Chris Matthews that Obama "may have anti-American views" drew condemnation and helped her opponent, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, raise more than $1 million in just a few days.

During an interview with the Times' editorial board, Bachmann said she walked into a trap and did not bring up the term "anti-American." Still, she said, "I should not have used that phrase."

Earlier in the day, Bachmann told St. Cloud Rotary Club members she would like to "take back" the statement.

To paraphrase the song,"You're not sorry that you said it, your just song that you got caught."

Today in History:

October 22, 1797 -
Once upon a time in the eighteenth century, a man named J.P. Blanchard threw a dog wearing a rudimentary parachute out of a hot-air balloon. History does not divulge the outcome of this experiment. Mr. Blanchard may simply have been a disgruntled cat person.

There lived at that time a swindler by the name of Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who traveled around France offering (for a fee from his spectators) to ascend into the sky in a hot-air balloon and leap to the earth in a parachute. Strangely enough, his balloon never managed to get off the ground. Refunds were never offered.

One day an angry spectator brought Garnerin's con to the attention of the local authorities, who promptly arrested him. He was given a choice: he could either get his balloon to fly and make the promised jump or he could go directly to jail.

And so, one early evening 211 years ago today, Garnerin's balloon rose 3000 feet into the evening air above Paris. Then it exploded.

Fortunately, Garnerin was already in his parachute and survived the landing. The suddenly successful showman didn't die his inevitable horrible aviation-related death for a full quarter-century.

It was on this day in 1836 that Sam Houston was sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Texas. Texas had become an independent nation after winning its independence from Mexico, and would not be incorporated into the United States as a state until 1845. There are some who insist to this day that Texas was never properly admitted into the Union because, like everything else, its admission had been Unconstitutional. (There are also people who insist that extraterrestrial poodles have been fixing the Super Bowl.)

Readers interested in the very curious question of Texan sovereignty are referred to, which is either brilliant satire or terrifying sincerity. (Readers interested in the curious question of sports-fixing extraterrestrial poodles are referred to a competent behavioral healthcare provider.)

October 22, 1844 -
The Second Coming fails to occur for the Seventh Day Adventists, led by Bible scientist William Miller. The Millerites were expecting the End Times to accompany the appearance of Jesus Christ, so that didn't happen either.

Oops, I guess Mr. Miller has some explaining to do.

The Gare Montparnasse, one of the six large terminus train stations of Paris, became famous for a derailment on 22 October 1895 of the Granville-Paris Express that overran the buffer stop. The engine careened across almost 100 ft off the station concourse, crashed through a two foot thick wall, shot across a terrace and sailed out of the station, plummeting onto the Place de Rennes more than 3o feet below, where it stood on its nose. All on board the train survived, five sustaining injuries: two passengers, the fireman and two crewmembers; however, one woman on the street below was killed by falling masonry. The accident was caused by a faulty Westinghouse brake and the engine drivers who were trying to make up for lost time. The conductor incurred a 25 franc penalty and the engine driver a 50 franc penalty; he was also sent to prison for two months.

Do you think the passangers got their money back?

October 22, 1934 -
Here's another story of your tax dollars at work.

FBI agents, led by the ambitious Melvin Purvis and local Ohio authorities captured and killed Public enemy No. 1, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, in a shoot out on this day. Or so the official story goes. But as many of you loyal readers know the 'authorized' version and actual facts of events can differ wildly.

Chester Smith, a retired East Liverpool Police Captain, the sharpshooter who claimed that he shot Floyd first, stated in a 1979 interview, that after he had (deliberately) wounded, but not killed, Floyd.

"I knew Purvis couldn't hit him, so I dropped him with two shots from my .32 Winchester rifle."

Smith claims that he then disarmed Floyd, and that Melvin Purvis, the agent in charge, ran up and ordered: "Back away from that man. I want to talk to him." Purvis questioned him briefly and then ordered him shot at point-blank range, telling agent Herman Hollis to "Fire into him." The interviewer asked if there was a coverup by the FBI, and Smith responded: "Sure was, because they didn't want it to get out that he'd been killed that way." This account is extremely controversial. If true, Purvis effectively executed Floyd without benefit of judge or jury.

October 22, 1943 -

As it is generally understood that it is impolite to point out a woman's age, I will merely report that the still lovely Catherine Deneuve was born on this date.

October 22, 1976 -
Red dye #4 is banned by the US Food and Drug Administration, because it causes tumors in the bladders of dogs. The dye is still used in Canada. The ban wreaks havoc with the M&M supply.

And so it goes

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When Sodomy was in full bloom

Today in History:

October 21, 1805 -

The Battle of Trafalgar was a historic sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy - the battle, it self, was the most decisive British victory of the Napoleonic Wars and was a pivotal naval battle of the 19th century. Admiral Lord Nelsonwas mortally wounded during the battle, becoming and remaining Britain's greatest naval war hero. Nelson's body was placed in cask of brandy, mixed with camphor and myrrh, and returned to England for a spectacular funeral. An enduring rumor has evolved that the sailors aboard ship kept taking a sip from Nelson's liquory tomb hence the phrase "Nelson's blood' came into use for rum.

October 21, 1879 -
Using a filament of carbonized thread, Thomas Alva Edison invented the incandescent electric lamp on this date. That invention was the fruit of study, hard work, and years of persistent experimentation, rendering it entirely inappropriate for discussion here.

More worthy of our attention is Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, born on this date in 1833.

Mr Nobel is interesting because his fortune was founded in large part on the commercial success of something he invented in 1866: dynamite.

Dynamite proved so lucrative for Mr Nobel that he was able to spend most of the rest of his life blowing things up in the interests of world peace. World peace was not achieved in his lifetime, however, so he endowed a foundation with millions of dollars to give prizes to the men and women of future generations who helped bring the world closer to peace by blowing things up.

October 21, 1973 -
John Paul Getty III's ear is cut off by his kidnappers and sent to a newspaper in Rome; It doesn't arrive until November 8.

So much for the Italians getting the trains to run on time.

October 21, 1995 -
Shannon Hoon, lead singer of the pop band Blind Melon, dies of a heroin overdose in New Orleans, inside the band's tour bus.

October 21, 1997 -
Suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian's messy practice of leaving corpses in Detroit area hotel rooms comes to the attention of local area Hotel owners and they meet to discuss the situation, on this date.

"Good Morning, Housekeeping..."

And so it goes

Monday, October 20, 2008

He has all the charm of a rotting corpse -

Oops, he is one!

Today in History -

October 20, 1930 -
Death row murderer Wiliam Kogut commits suicide in San Quentin prison with MacGyver like ingenuity. He tore the red spots from a deck of playing cards, the the time the red dye used on the pack of cards was made from nitrocellulose, saturated them with water, and jammed them into a length of steel pipe from his bed frame. Kogut placed the bomb on the heater and waited for science to take it's course.

I wonder if he went to a specialized High School.

October 20, 1947 -
Under the direction of Richard M. Nixon, The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood. The resulting hysteria results in the creation of a blacklist in the film industry, preventing certain individuals from working in the business for years.

October 20, 1967 -
Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin reported that on this date they had captured a purported Sasquatch on film at Bluff Creek, California. This came to be known as the Patterson-Gimlin film, which is purported to be the best evidence of Bigfoot by many advocates. If only that had named their film - Bigfoot: Americas Abominable Snowman, perhaps it would have done better box office in it's opening weekend.

Many years later, Bob Heironimus, an acquaintance of Patterson's, claimed that he had worn an ape costume for the making of the film. Organizations such as Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization have suggested that that Heironimus himself is a fraud.

October 20, 1973 -
The Six Million Dollar Man premieres on ABC.

They might have been able to re- build him better, stronger, faster but they should have spent some of the money on Lee Majors' acting abilities.

October 20, 1973 -
The Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon fires Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus when they each refuse to fire special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Who was the man who finally fired Cox: Robert Bork.

It's that evil beard.

October 20, 1977 -

En route to a gig at Louisiana State University, Lynyrd Skynyrd band members Ronnie Van Zandt and Steve Gaines are killed when their private plane runs out of fuel and crashes into a swamp in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Their record company MCA withdraws the flame-filled cover art for their ironically-named Street Survivors album.

Drunken frat boys everywhere mourn and cry out, "Play 'Freebird' man".

And so it goes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another day late and a dollar short

Sorry for the delay. The whole Palin/ Fey appearance late night on SNL still has me all topsy-turvy.

Here's two versions of the same song for the general mood of country -

Here's an abbreviated Today in History:

In the midst of the first world war, Salvation Army volunteers in France found themselves stymied by inadequate supplies and ovens for baking. Unable to prepare the cakes and and pies they so badly wanted to bake for the troops, they came up with the novel idea of frying rather than baking the dough.

This resulted in the appearance of the world's first donut on October 19, 1917.

The donut should not be confused with the bagel, despite their physical resemblance. The bagel is boiled and baked, whereas the donut is fried.

Bagels are found in varieties such as onion, garlic, salt, poppy-seed, and sesame-seed, and are frequently consumed with cheese and fish.

Donuts are found in varieties such as glazed, chocolate, chocolate-frosted, strawberry-frosted, powdered, jelly-filled, and sprinkled.

They are rarely consumed with cheese or fish, but they go pretty damn well with coffee.

October 19, 1982 -
Maverick carmaker John DeLorean is arrested in Los Angeles with $24M worth of cocaine in his suitcase. The case is later thrown out of court when a judge rules that the FBI sting operation constituted entrapment.

Ocobert 19, 1997 -
During the warm-up act at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, 4,642 Motley Crue fans - including a few minor children - are treated to a vignette from a pornographic video projected above the stage. The scene depicts a naked woman masturbating with a dildo and performing fellatio. Surprisingly, Tommy Lee does not appear in the video.

And so it goes

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's a Huge day in the Palin household.

It's Alaska Day.

Alaska Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska, observed on October 18. It is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States which took place at a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sitka on October 18, 1867.

Today in History:

October 18, 1767 -
The border between Maryland and Pennsylvania was settled. Dubbed the Mason-Dixon line, it became the unofficial boundary between North and South.

Bad confederates, bad.

October 18,1898 -
The United States took control of Puerto Rico one year after Spain had granted self-rule to the Caribbean nation. So class, that makes all Puerto Ricans - U.S. citizens. We don't need green cards and we don't need to register. You can't imagine how many assholes have asked me over the years when did my grandparents become U.S. citizens. OK, I'll get off my soap box and stop foaming at the mouth.

October 18, 1931 -
Thomas Alva Edison, one of the most prolific inventors in history, did not file a patent on avoiding death so he died in West Orange, N.J., at the age of 84.

Bad Grim Reaper, bad.

October 18, 1945 -
The USSR's nuclear program receives plans for America's plutonium bomb, courtesy of secret agent Klaus Fuchs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Bad spy, bad spy.

October 18, 1959 -
The Soviet Union announced an unmanned space vehicle had taken the first pictures of the far side of the moon.

Remember kids, there is no dark side of the moon - it's all dark.

October 18, 1968 -
A police with the helpof two sniffer dogs, named Yogi and Boo-Boo, raid the apartment of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and finds a very small amount of pot. The couple is fined £150 .

Bad Beatle, bad Beatle.

October 18, 1974 -
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, based loosely on Ed Gein's story opens in theatres. At the time of release, the film was so strongly criticized for its content that it was eventually banned in various countries around the world, including Australia and the United Kingdom.

Bad psycho killer, bad psycho killer.

October 18, 1974 -
The jury in the Watergate cover-up trial heard a tape recording in which U.S. President Richard Nixon told aide John Dean to try to stop the Watergate burglary investigation before it implicated White House personnel.

Bad Dick, bad.

October 18, 1984 -
U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered an investigation of a CIA handbook for Nicaraguan rebels that suggested assassination as a political tactic.

Bad, oh forget it, he's dead.

And so it goes

Friday, October 17, 2008

Late highlights from the debate

Late highlights from the debate

Memento mori
In ancient Rome, the phrase is said to have been used on the occasions when a Roman general was parading through the streets of Rome during the victory celebration known as a triumph. Standing behind the victorious general was a slave, and he had the task of reminding the general that, though he was up on the peak today, tomorrow was another day. The servant did this by telling the general that he should remember that he was mortal: "Memento mori." After watching Letterman last night with John McCain, I am now firmly convinced that David Letterman is servicing the purpose of the slave for today's politicians.

Today in History:

The Sixth Crusade ended on this date in 1244 after the Saracens ("Infidels") defeated the Franks ("Infidels") at Gaza. But you know after the Fourth Crusade, I just stop counting.

October 17, 1777 -

At one of the turning points of the American Revolution, British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered to American Gen. Horatio Gates at Saratoga, N.Y.

October 17, 1967 -
The play Hair, full of dancing naked people, unshaved armpits, and body odor, opens at the 299-seat Anspacher Theater on Broadway. At the time, the musical's depiction of the use of illegal drugs, sexuality, profanity, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy. The musical broke new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of the "rock musical", utilizing a racially-integrated cast, and by inviting the audience onstage for a "Be-in" finale.

October 17, 1973 -
The Arab-dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said it would cut oil exports to the United States and other nations that provided military aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. A full oil embargo hit the United States in December causing a serious energy crisis.

October 17, 1979 -

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Roman Catholic nun who cared for the sick and poor, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But what she really wanted to do was direct.

October 17, 1984 -
The New York Times runs an article entitled "CIA Primer Tells Nicaraguan Rebels How to Kill." The story describes the secret manual Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare which the CIA furnished to the Contras in Nicaragua. The booklet instructed how to kidnap and assassinate civil officials, such as judges and police. Barnes and Noble no longer sells the primer and you cannnot back order it. Sorry.

October 17, 1986 -
Congress passed a landmark immigration bill, the first U.S. law authorizing penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens.

Green card, I don't gotta show you no stinking green card.

October 17, 1989 -
The Loma Prieta earthquake strikes the San Francisco Bay Area, killing 67 and causing billions in property damage. The 6.9 magnitude temblor manages to collapse a long section of the double-decker I-880 freeway, smushing motorists between the two layers. Part of the Bay Bridge also collapses. Worst of all, the quake postpones the third World Series game.

October 17, 1994 -

North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons program and allow international inspections of its facilities. I wonder how that's going.

And so it goes

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Delayed posting

Sorry for the delay,

Here's your late Today in History:

On this date in 1792 (or 1799), there was baptised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a boy named Francisco Morazàn. He was young, like most newborns, and full of idealism. After a disappointing childhood, in which he turned out not to have been born to wealth and privilege, he decided first to educate himself and then to enlist in the fight against Mexican annexation of Honduras.

After a disappointing loss, in which Honduras turned out to be a part of Mexico even though neither of them was any longer a part of Spain, Morazàn joined the government of the United Provinces of Central America. Two years later he was the president of the Honduras State legislature, and the following year he became president of the entire United Provinces by means of the traditional Central American electoral process ("civil war").

As president, he tried to limit the powers of the Roman Catholic Church, which eventually led to a new round of elections ("civil wars") that produced a new president, this time from the State of Guatemala. The new president exiled Morazàn, who returned several years later calling for electoral reform ("revolution") and was therefore impeached ("shot in the head") by one of his own troops.

It's a holiday in Honduras today.

It is not a holiday in Guatemala.

Or Mexico.

Also, Deposed French queen Joséphe Jeanne Marie Antoinette sits in an open cart, enduring hours of public ridicule as she is slowly driven around the streets of Paris, on this day in 1793. Finally, she is taken to the guillotine. Before she loses her head, Antoinette tells the crowd: "Farewell, my children, forever. I go to your Father."

She wasn't having a good day.

It's also the birthday of Oscar Wilde (1854), known for his barbed wit, was one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. In between bouts of buggery, he found time to write the following passage in The Picture of Dorian Gray: "Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world's original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, History would have been different." Unfortunately for Oscar, had he fled England in the spring of 1895, his history would have been different.

I believe that cavemen did indeed know how to laugh, and that people who accuse humanity of being too serious obviously aren't paying attention. Voluminous scientific research has incontrovertibly proven that we are the only species to giggle at one other's farts.

I reminds you that our lives are haphazard accidents in an indifferent world and that the very absurdity of life is what gives it the most meaning. Burp. Laugh. And ignore the serious bastards.

October 16, 1946 -
At Nuremberg, Germany, 10 high-ranking Nazi officials were executed by hanging for World War II war crimes. Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and chief of the German air force, was to have been among them but he committed suicide in his cell the night before. That must have been some neck stretching party.

October 16, 1964 -
China detonated its first atomic bomb.

That will teach us all to tip the delivery guys a hell of a lot more.

October 16, 1972 -
A light plane carrying House Democratic leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana and three other men was reported missing in Alaska. The plane was never found. Perhaps if they had that bridge to nowhere, they would have found them.

October 16, 1984 -

Black Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle against apartheid. Sometimes, the good guys win.

And so it goes